December 2, 2020
Neurons in different colors and shapes

Neurons in the motor cortex come in a variety of shapes. Image courtesy of the study authors.

The tree of life describes the evolution of life and seeks to define the relationships between species. Likewise, the tree of cell types aims to organize cells in the brain into groups and describe their relationships to each other. Scientists have long pondered just what the brain’s tree of cell types looks like.

Now, an international collaboration led by Dr. Andreas Tolias from Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Philipp Berens from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Dr. Rickard Sandberg from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, has published an article in Nature that provides one of the most detailed and complete characterizations of the diversity of neural types in the brain so far.

For this study, the research team used an experimentally challenging technique that they developed several years ago, called Patch-seq. This technique allowed them to collect a large multimodal database including genetic, anatomical and physiological information from single cells in the mouse motor cortex.